Elderly people sometimes have little choice but to rely on their loved ones to manage their finances but, where such trust turns out to be misplaced, the law takes a very dim view. In one case, reviewed by Wills and Probate expert Peter Roberts, a retired teacher was heavily fined for making unauthorised withdrawals from the joint building society account he held with his frail mother.
Just over a year before his mother’s death, the teacher, himself a pensioner, made three separate withdrawals from their joint account, totalling £1,383. She had by then been diagnosed with moderate dementia and medical experts were unanimous in their view that, prior to the withdrawals, she had lost the capacity to make decisions for herself and was incapable of handling her own financial affairs.
After a family dispute in respect of the mother’s estate developed, the teacher’s sister reported him to the police. He subsequently pleaded guilty to three offences of dishonestly abusing his position, contrary to Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006, and was fined £5,000 in respect of each count.
In dismissing his challenge to those convictions, the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland noted that he had pleaded guilty unequivocally and that his evidence that he had not done so of his own free will was wholly unconvincing. There was no merit in his criticisms of the lawyers who represented him prior to his guilty pleas and they emerged from the proceedings with their reputations unscathed.
The courts see a regular flow of similar cases where someone has taken advantage of a trusting elderly relative. We can advise you on appointing an attorney who can manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.
If you need advice on Powers of Attorney, or any other aspect of wills or probate, you can contact Peter on 01254 77 81 27, or alternatively complete our Contact Us form and one of our expert advisors will be in touch.